Easy brownie hacks to make box brownies better.
Sometimes baking demands a need for speed — and that’s where a good brownie box mix comes in. Here are tips and hacks for making a box brownie taste better, from which is the best brownie mix to bonus ingredients. Hack a box brownie mix into the best brownies ever.
How to Make Box Brownie Mix Taste Better
As a classically-trained pastry chef, this should be a recipe for decadent scratch brownies made with the finest cocoa powder and chocolate. This is not that article. This is about how to save time and hack a boxed brownie mix to make brownies taste better. Homemade, even.
Good brownies taste fudgy and rich, with that nice crackled skin on top and ever-so-slightly crisp around the edge pieces. Great brownies have all that, plus a deep chocolate flavor and maybe some texture from chocolate chips and some walnuts.
Here’s how to get a better-tasting brownie out of the best brownie mix.
Hack your way to better brownies by starting with the best brownie mix.
There is only so much lipstick you can put on a chocolate box brownie pig, so to speak. So the first step is to start with the best brownie mix. Once you have the good starting point of the best brownie mix, you can make the box brownie mix even better.
What is the best box brownie brand?
The best box brownie mix is Ghirardelli. I recommend either Ghirardelli’s Double Chocolate or Chocolate Supreme brownie mixes. Both are excellent.
Do not just take my word for it. Multiple sources, including Cook’s Illustrated and The Kitchn, agree that this brand is by far the best. (F.Y.I.: Duncan Hines gets a big thumbs-down.)
Step Two to Hack a Box Brownie Mix: Add Secret Ingredients
Every pastry chef knows that certain “secret” ingredients heighten certain flavors, and may not be listed in a recipe’s ingredients. Fresh lemon juice, for example, heightens and brightens the flavors of fruit in fruit desserts and sweets, like pies, tarts, jams, and preserves.
The best ingredients to add flavor to box brownies are:
- Vanilla extract
- Expresso powder
- An extra egg yolk
For brownie purposes, as with chocolate in general, the best secret ingredient is coffee. Instant espresso powder, to be exact. Just as lemon juice brightens fruit, coffee adds flavor and depth to chocolate. After a bit of taste testing, I prefer Medaglia D’Oro, an Italian brand that is widely available.
The other secret ingredient is pure vanilla extract. The sweet aroma adds an extra layer of depth to the chocolate flavor.
Finally, adding an extra egg yolk to the box brownie mix will make the brownies over-the-top fudgy and rich.
Step Three: Know which extra ingredients to add
Finally, kick the brownies up with added bonus ingredients for an extra-decadent, homemade-y dessert. Here are some ideas:
- Add a teaspoon of instant espresso powder to amp up the chocolate flavor
- Swirl in dollops of peanut butter
- Add an extra egg yolk to make the brownies a little richer
- Add 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- Add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- Add 1/2 cup peppermint pieces
- Add a large handful of mini pretzels. Don’t chop or break them up. Stirring them into the brownie batter and later, cutting the brownies, will break them up just enough.
Step Four to the Best Box Brownie Mix: Lie.
No one needs to know that you hacked a boxed brownie mix into such a delicious “homemade” brownie dessert. Because you added so many great additional ingredients — not to mention your own egg and oil as directed by the box — your brownies officially have been transformed into homemade.
The way I see it, Ghirardelli merely premixed the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, cocoa, leavening) for you, like the personal baking assistant you deserve. Enjoy.
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How to Make Box Brownie Mix Better: Easy Baking Hacks
- 1 box Ghirardelli brownie mix of choice
- 1 egg, or per box ingredients
- 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil, or per box directions
- 1/4 cup water, or per box directions
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- pinch kosher salt
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional
- 1 cup chocolate chips, optional (Add if the mix does not already have them. I like Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips.)
- Preheat the oven to 325°F, or whatever is on the box, and grease or line your baking dish. I use an 8" x 8" square brownie pan.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, water, egg, vanilla, and espresso powder. Don't worry if the espresso powder forms blobs. Just keep whisking a little more and it will all dissolve.
- Add the dry brownie mix to the liquid, along with a pinch of salt. Add the nuts and chocolate chips, if using. Stir just until fully combined. Small lumps in the batter are ok.
- Bake according to the package directions. Let cool before cutting and serving, either plain or garnished with berries, whipped cream, ice cream, or powdered sugar.PRO TIP: Brownies are very sticky when cut. To get nice, clean edges, slice through the brownies, then pull the knife toward you to remove it, instead of lifting it out of the brownies. Then wipe the blade down with a warm, wet paper towel between cuts.
Best box mix ever. This is how I hack them:
Cooled melted butter in place of the oil. Milk in place of the water – I don’t use extra yolk but I do use a very large egg.
I also add about 4 grams table salt mixed into dry ingredients.
When in pan I dollop in 1/2 teaspoons of caramel desert sauce (the thick kind from a jar) – about 12 dollops. Then I swirl the caramel in quite throughly with the tip of a knife. To die for.
Thanks for all these wonderful suggestions. This all sounds so decadent.
WOULD YOU USE THE GHIRARDELLI MIX AND CHANGE THE WATER FOR MILK OR NO? WOUD YOU ADD AN EXTRA EGG OR EGG YOLK? IF I DON’T USE THE COFFEE, WILL IT STILL BE OK?. I WANT THEM TO TASTE HOMEMADE SO WITH THE ABOVE QUESTIONS, WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST ADDING OR NOT ADDING?
You can definitely substitute milk. I would not add an extra egg, but an extra egg yolk would make it even fudgier, if you really want to make a super-rich brownie. Skipping the coffee will be absolutely fine. Happy baking!
Just wondering about using 1/2 oil and 1/2 melted butter
Hi, Pat! That would work fine and sounds delicious. Happy baking.
Love the additions to the Brownie Mix. One. other suggestion – pour half the batter into the pan, then add a candy bar (I like Symphony). Break up the candy bar and scatter it over the batter. Then cover the candy bar with the rest of the batter.
The candy bar never really melts, and when you bite into the brownie, you get a surprise of another layer of chocolate. People rave abut these brownies.
What a delicious tip! I love this idea and am already envisioning some Reese’s Cups in there…my favorite. Thanks for sharing.
While I haven’t made this exact recipe as yet, I do have a strictly homemade one very similar. One important difference, that makes a surprisingly big difference is to prepare the recipe as above, then spread it in the pan and sprinkle 1/4 tsp. medium grain sea salt on top. Swirl it in a few times with a table knife and bake as directed. As you chew the finished brownie, your teeth will hit the grain of salt resulting in a hit of flavor that enhances the chocolate. It amazes those who eat these brownies. Don’t use too much salt – 1/4 tsp. is plenty.
This is a wonderful tip. Thanks. Don’t you just love how flaky sea salt makes food amazing? That’s why I always put a bucket of Maldon salt in my holiday gift guides every year!
I add blood orange oil instead of plain vegetable oil along with your suggestions. Excellent!
What a good idea! Orange and chocolate is such a good flavor idea.
The modifications,OK hack, are amazing every time I make these! Since I`m not much of baker this is tremendous for me b/c of the results.Thank you Unpeeled!
So, how would substituting the egg with applesauce work here? Can applesauce work as a substitute for the oil at the same time, as well? Looking for a veganlicious recipe! Thanks!
Hi, M.M. My favorite substitute for egg is actually to combine one tablespoon of flax meal and three tablespoons of water. Whisk with a fork and let it sit for a few minutes. It will become viscous like an egg, and add protein as well. Applesauce can be substituted for the oil, but it might be a little less rich.
I replaced some of the oil with a Tablespoon of Orange flavored olive oil and added some orange zest in for fun. People were surprised by the additional flavor
Good idea! Chocolate and orange is such a good flavor combination.
I have not yet made the brownies which sounds delicious. Would I double the ingredients to bake in a 9 x 13 pan? Thank you.
Hi there! Yes, you can double the recipe for a 9 x 13″ pan. The baking time will increase, of course, so just insert a tester into the center. It should come out clean, with a few soft crumbs clinging to it. Enjoy!